All posts by Madeline Snipes

What to Read this Month: October 2019

Happy Halloween! Don’t forget to set your clock back this Sunday, November 2. As always, for more exciting reads, check out our Overdrive, New and Noteworthy, and Current Literature collections.


Cover of Beneath the Mountain Beneath the Mountain by Luca D’Andrea; translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis.

In Luca D’Andrea’s atmospheric and brilliant thriller, set in a small mountain community in the majestic Italian Dolomites, an outsider must uncover the truth about a triple murder that has gone unsolved for thirty years.

New York City native Jeremiah Salinger is one half of a hot-shot documentary-making team. He and his partner, Mike, made a reality show about roadies that skyrocketed them to fame. But now Salinger’s left that all behind, to move with his wife, Annelise, and young daughter, Clara, to the remote part of Italy where Annelise grew up – the Alto Adige.

Nestled in the Dolomites, this breathtaking, rural region that was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire remains more Austro than Italian. Locals speak a strange, ancient dialect – Ladino – and root for Germany (against Italy) in the world cup. Annelise’s small town – Siebenhoch – is close-knit to say the least and does not take kindly to out-of-towners. When Salinger decides to make a documentary about the mountain rescue group, the mission goes horribly awry, leaving him the only survivor. He blames himself, and so, it seems, does everyone else in Siebenhoch. Spiraling into a deep depression, he begins having terrible, recurrent nightmares. Only his little girl Clara can put a smile on his face.

But when he takes Clara to the Bletterbach Gorge – a canyon rich in fossil remains – he accidentally overhears a conversation that gives his life renewed focus. In 1985, three students were murdered there, their bodies savaged, limbs severed and strewn by a killer who was never found. Although Salinger knows this is a tightlipped community, one where he is definitely persona non grata, he becomes obsessed with solving this mystery and is convinced it is all that can keep him sane. And as Salinger unearths the long kept secrets of this small town, one by one, the terrifying truth is eventually revealed about the horrifying crime that marked an entire village.

Completely engrossing and deeply atmospheric, Beneath The Mountain is a thriller par excellence.


Cover of Antisemitism: Here and Now Antisemitism: Here and Now by Deborah E. Lipstadt.

The award-winning author of The Eichmann Trial and Denial: Holocaust History on Trial gives us a penetrating and provocative analysis of the hate that will not die, focusing on its current, virulent incarnations on both the political right and left: from white supremacist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, to mainstream enablers of antisemitism such as Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn, to a gay pride march in Chicago that expelled a group of women for carrying a Star of David banner.

Over the last decade there has been a noticeable uptick in antisemitic rhetoric and incidents by left-wing groups targeting Jewish students and Jewish organizations on American college campuses. And the reemergence of the white nationalist movement in America, complete with Nazi slogans and imagery, has been reminiscent of the horrific fascist displays of the 1930s. Throughout Europe, Jews have been attacked by terrorists, and some have been murdered.

Where is all this hatred coming from? Is there any significant difference between left-wing and right-wing antisemitism? What role has the anti-Zionist movement played? And what can be done to combat the latest manifestations of an ancient hatred? In a series of letters to an imagined college student and imagined colleague, both of whom are perplexed by this resurgence, acclaimed historian Deborah Lipstadt gives us her own superbly reasoned, brilliantly argued, and certain to be controversial responses to these troubling questions.


Cover of Midwestern Strange Midwestern Strange: Hunting Monsters, Martians, and the Weird in Flyover Country by B.J. Hollars.

Midwestern Strange chronicles B.J. Hollars’s exploration of the mythic, lesser-known oddities of flyover country. The mysteries, ranging from bipedal wolf sightings to run-ins with pancake-flipping space aliens to a lumberjack-inspired “Hodag hoax,” make this book a little bit X-Files, a little bit Ghostbusters, and a whole lot of Sherlock Holmes . Hollars’s quest is not to confirm or debunk these mysteries but rather to seek out these unexplained phenomena to understand how they complicate our worldview and to discover what truths might be gleaned by reexamining the facts in our “post-truth” era.

Part memoir and part journalism, Midwestern Strange offers a fascinating, funny, and quirky account of flyover folklore that also contends with the ways such oddities retain cultural footholds. Hollars shows how grappling with such subjects might fortify us against the glut of misinformation now inundating our lives. By confronting monsters, Martians, and a cabinet of curiosities, we challenge ourselves to look beyond our presumptions and acknowledge that just because something is weird, doesn’t mean it is wrong.


Cover for Ageing and Contemporary Female Musicians Ageing and Contemporary Female Musicians by Abigail Gardner.

Ageing and Contemporary Female Musicians focuses on ageing within contemporary popular music. It argues that context, genres, memoirs, racial politics and place all contribute to how women are ‘aged’ in popular music.

Framing contemporary female musicians as canonical grandmothers, Rude Girls, neo-Afrofuturist and memoirists settling accounts, the book gives us some respite from a decline or denial narrative and introduces a dynamism into ageing. Female rock memoirs are age-appropriate survival stories that reframe the histories of punk and independent rock music. Old age has a functional and canonical ‘place’ in the work of Shirley Collins and Calypso Rose.

Janelle Monáe, Christine and the Queens, and Anohni perform ‘queer’ age, specifically a kind of ‘going beyond’ both corporeal and temporal borders. Genres age, and the book introduces the idea of the time-crunch; an encounter between an embodied, represented age and a genre-age, which is, itself, produced through historicity and aesthetics. Lastly the book goes behind the scenes to draw on interviews and questionnaires with 19 women involved in the contemporary British and American popular music industry; DIY and ex-musicians, producers, music publishers, music journalists and audio engineers.

Ageing and Contemporary Female Musicians is a vital intergenerational feminist viewpoint for researchers and students in gender studies, popular music, popular culture, media studies, cultural studies and ageing studies.


Cover for The Genius Within The Genius Within: Unlocking Our Brain’s Potential by David Adam.

What if you have more intelligence than you realize? What if there is a genius inside you, just waiting to be released? And what if the route to better brain power is not hard work or thousands of hours of practice but to simply swallow a pill? In The Genius Within, David Adam explores the groundbreaking neuroscience of cognitive enhancement that is changing the way the brain and the mind works – to make it better, sharper, more focused and, yes, more intelligent. He considers how we measure and judge intelligence, taking us on a fascinating tour of the history of brain science and medicine, from gentlemen scientist brain autopsy clubs to case studies of mental health patients with extraordinary savant abilities. In addition to reporting on the latest research and fascinating case studies, David also goes on his own personal journey to investigate the possibilities of neuroenhancement, using himself as a guinea pig for smart pills and electrical brain stimulation in order to improve his IQ scores and cheat his way into MENSA. Getting to the heart of how we think about intelligence and mental ability, The Genius Within plunges into deep ethical, neuroscientific, and historical pools of enquiry about the science of brain function, untapping potential, and what it means for all of us. The Genius Within asks difficult questions about the science that could rank and define us, and inevitably shape our future.

 


What to Read this Month: September 2019

Happy fall! While it might be too soon to curl up with a blanket, you can always curl up with a good book. For more exciting reads, check out our Overdrive, New and Noteworthy, and Current Literature collections.


Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton.

Eli Bell’s life is complicated. His father is lost, his mother is in jail, and his stepdad is a heroin dealer. The most steadfast adult in Eli’s life is Slim – a notorious felon and national record-holder for successful prison escapes – who watches over Eli and August, his silent genius of an older brother.

Exiled far from the rest of the world in Darra, a neglected suburb populated by Polish and Vietnamese refugees, this twelve-year-old boy with an old soul and an adult mind is just trying to follow his heart, learn what it takes to be a good man, and train for a glamorous career in journalism. Life, however, insists on throwing obstacles in Eli’s path – most notably Tytus Broz, Brisbane’s legendary drug dealer.

But the real trouble lies ahead. Eli is about to fall in love, face off against truly bad guys, and fight to save his mother from a certain doom – all before starting high school.

A story of brotherhood, true love, family, and the most unlikely of friendships, Boy Swallows Universe is the tale of an adolescent boy on the cusp of discovering the man he will be. Powerful and kinetic, Trent Dalton’s debut is sure to be one of the most heartbreaking, joyous and exhilarating novels you will experience.


The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator by Timothy C. Winegard.

A pioneering and groundbreaking work of narrative nonfiction that offers a dramatic new perspective on the history of humankind, showing how through millennia, the mosquito has been the single most powerful force in determining humanity’s fate.

Why was gin and tonic the cocktail of choice for British colonists in India and Africa? What does Starbucks have to thank for its global domination? What has protected the lives of popes for millennia? Why did Scotland surrender its sovereignty to England? What was George Washington’s secret weapon during the American Revolution?

The answer to all these questions, and many more, is the mosquito.

Across our planet since the dawn of humankind, this nefarious pest, roughly the size and weight of a grape seed, has been at the frontlines of history as the grim reaper, the harvester of human populations, and the ultimate agent of historical change. As the mosquito transformed the landscapes of civilization, humans were unwittingly required to respond to its piercing impact and universal projection of power.

The mosquito has determined the fates of empires and nations, razed and crippled economies, and decided the outcome of pivotal wars, killing nearly half of humanity along the way. She (only females bite) has dispatched an estimated 52 billion people from a total of 108 billion throughout our relatively brief existence. As the greatest purveyor of extermination we have ever known, she has played a greater role in shaping our human story than any other living thing with which we share our global village.

Imagine for a moment a world without deadly mosquitoes, or any mosquitoes, for that matter? Our history and the world we know, or think we know, would be completely unrecognizable.

Driven by surprising insights and fast-paced storytelling, The Mosquito is the extraordinary untold story of the mosquito’s reign through human history and her indelible impact on our modern world order.


The Last Equation of Isaac Severy: A Novel in Clues by Nova Jacobs.

The Family Fang meets The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry in this literary mystery about a struggling bookseller whose recently deceased grandfather, a famed mathematician, left behind a dangerous equation for her to track down – and protect – before others can get their hands on it.

Just days after mathematician and family patriarch Isaac Severy dies of an apparent suicide, his adopted granddaughter Hazel, owner of a struggling Seattle bookstore, receives a letter from him by mail. In it, Isaac alludes to a secretive organization that is after his final bombshell equation, and he charges Hazel with safely delivering it to a trusted colleague. But first, she must find where the equation is hidden.

While in Los Angeles for Isaac’s funeral, Hazel realizes she’s not the only one searching for his life’s work, and that the equation’s implications have potentially disastrous consequences for the extended Severy family, a group of dysfunctional geniuses unmoored by the sudden death of their patriarch.

As agents of an enigmatic company shadow Isaac’s favorite son – a theoretical physicist – and a long-lost cousin mysteriously reappears in Los Angeles, the equation slips further from Hazel’s grasp. She must unravel a series of maddening clues hidden by Isaac inside one of her favorite novels, drawing her ever closer to his mathematical treasure. But when her efforts fall short, she is forced to enlist the help of those with questionable motives.


Brave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the Melting North by Mark C. Serreze.

An insider account of how researchers unraveled the mystery of the thawing Arctic.

In the 1990s, researchers in the Arctic noticed that floating summer sea ice had begun receding. This was accompanied by shifts in ocean circulation and unexpected changes in weather patterns throughout the world. The Arctic’s perennially frozen ground, known as permafrost, was warming, and treeless tundra was being overtaken by shrubs. What was going on? Brave New Arctic is Mark Serreze’s riveting firsthand account of how scientists from around the globe came together to find answers.

In a sweeping tale of discovery spanning three decades, Serreze describes how puzzlement turned to concern and astonishment as researchers came to understand that the Arctic of old was quickly disappearing – with potentially devastating implications for the entire planet. Serreze is a world-renowned Arctic geographer and climatologist who has conducted fieldwork on ice caps, glaciers, sea ice, and tundra in the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic. In this must-read book, he blends invaluable insights from his own career with those of other pioneering scientists who, together, ushered in an exciting new age of Arctic exploration. Along the way, he accessibly describes the cutting-edge science that led to the alarming conclusion that the Arctic is rapidly thawing due to climate change, that humans are to blame, and that the global consequences are immense.

A gripping scientific adventure story, Brave New Arctic shows how the Arctic’s extraordinary transformation serves as a harbinger of things to come if we fail to meet the challenge posed by a warming Earth.


The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley.

From the Hugo Award­winning author of The Stars Are Legion comes a brand-new science fiction thriller about a futuristic war during which soldiers are broken down into light in order to get them to the front lines on Mars.

They said the war would turn us into light.
I wanted to be counted among the heroes who gave us this better world.

The Light Brigade: it’s what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back…different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief – no matter what actually happens during combat.

Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don’t sync up with the platoon’s. And Dietz’s bad drops tell a story of the war that’s not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think is going on.

Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero – or maybe a villain; in war it’s hard to tell the difference.

A worthy successor to classic stories like Downbelow Station, Starship Troopers, and The Forever War, The Light Brigade is award-winning author Kameron Hurley’s gritty time-bending take on the future of war.

 


What to Read this Month: August 2019

Welcome / welcome back to Duke and the start of another school year! In an effort to encourage reading for pleasure while in college – really, it’s possible – here are some suggestions from our New and Noteworthy collection, located on the first floor of Perkins across from the bathrooms. You can also check out our Current Literature and Devil DVDS at Lilly, CDs at the Music Library on East Campus, and our Overdrive collection. Don’t worry if your computer doesn’t have a disc drive; you can borrow those at Lilly! And if you need help finding a book, you can learn about how we organize our books in this course guide or come to the service desk – we’re happy to help!


Strangers and Cousins by Leah Hager Cohen.

In the seemingly idyllic town of Rundle Junction, Bennie and Walter are preparing to host the wedding of their eldest daughter Clem. A marriage ceremony at their beloved, rambling home should be the happiest of occasions, but Walter and Bennie have a secret. A new community has moved to Rundle Junction, threatening the social order and forcing Bennie and Walter to confront uncomfortable truths about the lengths they would go to to maintain harmony.

Meanwhile, Aunt Glad, the oldest member of the family, arrives for the wedding plagued by long-buried memories of a scarring event that occurred when she was a girl in Rundle Junction. As she uncovers details about her role in this event, the family begins to realize that Clem’s wedding may not be exactly what it seemed. Clever, passionate, artistic Clem has her own agenda. What she doesn’t know is that by the end, everyone will have roles to play in this richly imagined ceremony of familial connection-a brood of quirky relatives, effervescent college friends, ghosts emerging from the past, a determined little mouse, and even the very group of new neighbors whose presence has shaken Rundle Junction to its core.

With Strangers and Cousins, Leah Hager Cohen delivers a story of pageantry and performance, hopefulness and growth, and introduces a winsome, unforgettable cast of characters whose lives are forever changed by events that unfold and reverberate across generations.

Cohen writes both fiction and nonfiction, including her 2013 book, I Don’t Know: In Praise of Admitting Ignorance and Doubt (Except When You Shouldn’t).


Only as the Day is Long: New and Selected Poems by Dorianne Laux.

Only as the Day Is Long represents a brilliant, daring body of work from one of our boldest contemporary poets, known to bear compassionate and ruthless witness to the quotidian. Drawn from Dorianne Laux’s five expansive volumes, including her confident debut Awake, National Book Critics Circle Finalist What We Carry, and Paterson Prize-winning The Book of Men, the poems in this collection have been “brought to the hard edge of meaning” (B. H. Fairchild) and praised for their “enormous precision and beauty” (Philip Levine). Twenty new odes pay homage to Laux’s mother, an ordinary and extraordinary woman of the Depression era.The wealth of her life experience finds expression in Laux’s earthy and lyrical depictions of working-class America, full of the dirt and mess of real life. From the opening poem, “Two Pictures of My Sister,” to the last, “Letter to My Dead Mother,” she writes, in her words, of “living gristle” with a perceptive frankness that is luminous in its specificity and universal in its appeal. Exploring experiences of survival and healing, of sexual love and celebration, Only as the Day Is Long shows Laux at the height of her powers.

You can watch Laux read her poetry.


The End of the Beginning: Cancer, Immunity, and the Future of a Cure by Michael S. Kinch.

For the first time since a 5th century Greek physician gave the name “cancer” (karkinos, in Greek) to a deadly disease first described in Egyptian Papyri, the medical world is near a breakthrough that could allow even the most conservative doctors and pragmatic patients to use the other “c word” – cure – in the same sentence as cancer. A remarkable series of events has brought us to this point, thanks in large part to a new ability to more efficiently harness the extraordinary power of the human immune system.

The End of the Beginning is a remarkable history of cancer treatment and the evolution of our understanding of its dynamic interplay with the immune system. Through Michael Kinch’s personal experience as a cancer researcher at Washington University and the head of the oncology program at a leading biotechnology company, we witness the incredible accumulation of breakthrough science and its rapid translation into life-saving technologies that have begun to dramatically increase the quality and quantity of life for cancer patients.

According to Kinch’s website,

“Michael S. Kinch, Ph.D. is Associate Vice Chancellor at Washington University in St Louis, where he helps lead entrepreneurship activities as well as research on innovation in biopharmaceutical research and development. Michael founded and leads the Centers for Research Innovation in Biotechnology (CRIB) and Drug Development (CDD).

“Dr. Kinch’s scientific background includes the development of new medicines for cancer, immunological and infectious diseases. His current work is primarily focused upon understanding the blend of science, medicine, business and law needed to support the development of new medicines.”


The Business of Changing the World: How Billionaires, Tech Disrupters, and Social Entrepreneurs are Transforming the Global Aid Industry by Raj Kumar.

Today, entrepreneurs, Silicon Valley start-ups, and celebrity activists are the driving force in a radical shift in the way we think about lifting people out of poverty. In this new era of data-driven, results-oriented global aid, it’s no longer enough to be a well-intentioned do-gooder or for the wealthy to donate an infinitesimal part of their assets to people without a home or basic nutrition. What matter now in the world of aid are measurable improvements and demonstrable, long-term change.

Drawing on two decades of research and his own experiences as an expert in global development, Raj Kumar, founder and President of Devex, explores the successes and failures of non-traditional models of philanthropy. According to Kumar, a new billionaire boom is fundamentally changing the landscape of how we give, from well-established charitable organizations like the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to Starbucks and other businesses that see themselves as social enterprises, to entrepreneurial start-ups like Hello Tractor, a farm equipment-sharing app for farmers in Nigeria, and Give Directly, an app that allows individuals to send money straight to the mobile phone of someone in need. The result is a more sustainable philosophy of aid that elevates the voices of people in need as neighbors, partners, and customers.

Refreshing and accessibly written, The Business of Changing the World sets forth a bold vision for how businesses, policymakers, civil society organizations, and individuals can turn well-intentioned charity into effective advocacy to transform our world for good.

For a different perspective, see Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas.


Operatic by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler.

Somewhere in the universe, there is the perfect tune for you.

It’s almost the end of middle school, and Charlie has to find her perfect song for a music class assignment. The class learns about a different style of music each day, from hip-hop to metal to disco, but it’s hard for Charlie to concentrate when she can’t stop noticing her classmate Emile, or wondering about Luka, who hasn’t been to school in weeks. On top of everything, she has been talked into participating in an end-of-year performance with her best friends.

Then, the class learns about opera, and Charlie discovers the music of Maria Callas. The more she learns about Maria’s life, the more Charlie admires her passion for singing and her ability to express herself fully through her music. Can Charlie follow the example of the ultimate diva, Maria Callas, when it comes to her own life?

This evocatively illustrated graphic novel brilliantly captures the high drama of middle school by focusing on the desire of its finely drawn characters to sing and be heard.

The Music Library has a variety of CD and Vinyl records featuring Maria Callas.

 


What to Read this Month: July 2019

For additional summer reads, check out our Overdrive, New and Noteworthy, and Current Literature collections.


Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang

I devoured this book in half a day. It was amazing, and probably rates with some of my favorite sci-fi books like In Conquest Born by C.S. Friedman. The main character – Cas – is brilliant, compelling, a survivor, and a killer. And then she winds up in situations where she has to view the world beyond the lens of the axioms that fill her brain and literally surround her in daily life. Cas is also placed in a position where her actions affect the fate of millions (which brings to mind Dragon Age: Inquisition). Cas’s character in many ways reminds me of Clariel from Clariel by Garth Nix and Cat in Catharsis by D. Andrew Campbell.

Even better, apparently there’s a second book in the series that just came out!

Description:

A blockbuster, near-future science fiction thriller, S.L. Huang’s Zero Sum Game introduces a math-genius mercenary who finds herself being manipulated by someone possessing unimaginable power …

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, and she’ll take any job for the right price.

As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower…until she discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she’s involved. There’s only one problem…

She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.


Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom

A few pages into this book, I set it down. I knew I would want to read it in one sitting, and also hear the author’s voice before reading more. So I went to listen to the first few minutes of her book presentation at Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse. Two hours later, I had watched the entire presentation. And then I finally got around to reading the book. There’s so much to reflect on and absorb that I’m getting my own copy so I can underline to my heart’s content. Very approachable, compelling, and a wonderful author; I came to her from reading Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, which I also recommend.

Corroborating Reviews:

As featured by The Daily Show, NPR, PBS, CBC, Time, VIBE, Entertainment Weekly, Well-Read Black Girl, and Chris Hayes, “incisive, witty, and provocative essays” (Publishers Weekly) by one of the “most bracing thinkers on race, gender, and capitalism of our time” (Rebecca Traister)

“Thick is sure to become a classic.” –The New York Times Book Review

In eight highly praised treatises on beauty, media, money, and more, Tressie McMillan Cottom–award-winning professor and acclaimed author of Lower Ed – is unapologetically “thick”: deemed “thick where I should have been thin, more where I should have been less,” McMillan Cottom refuses to shy away from blending the personal with the political, from bringing her full self and voice to the fore of her analytical work. Thick “transforms narrative moments into analyses of whiteness, black misogyny, and status-signaling as means of survival for black women” (Los Angeles Review of Books) with “writing that is as deft as it is amusing” (Darnell L. Moore).

This “transgressive, provocative, and brilliant” (Roxane Gay) collection cements McMillan Cottom’s position as a public thinker capable of shedding new light on what the “personal essay” can do. She turns her chosen form into a showcase for her critical dexterity, investigating everything from Saturday Night Live, LinkedIn, and BBQ Becky to sexual violence, infant mortality, and Trump rallies.

Collected in an indispensable volume that speaks to the everywoman and the erudite alike, these unforgettable essays never fail to be “painfully honest and gloriously affirming” and hold “a mirror to your soul and to that of America” (Dorothy Roberts).


Filling the Void: Emotion, Capitalism and Social Media by Marcus Gilroy-Ware

This extremely thought-provoking book explores the sociocultural dimensions of technology in general and social media in particular. Gilroy-Ware links the emotional distress that social media feeds and profits from to the culture of capitalism that developed from capitalism as an economic system. He describes it: “The ‘capitalism’ that must be addressed in relation to social media is therefore one that operates at a far broader scale – that of society itself” (99).

Description:

Why is everyone staring at their phones on the train? Why do online videos of kittens get so many views? Why is the internet full of misinformation? Why are depression and anxiety amongst the most treated health conditions?

Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have come to be an integral part of the lives of billions of people across the world. But are they simply another source of information and entertainment, or a far more ominous symptom of capitalism’s excesses?

Written by Marcus Gilroy-Ware, this book is an essential inquiry into why we really use social media, and what this means for our understanding of culture, politics and capitalism itself.


Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy by Siva Vaidhyanathan

I picked this book up after reading The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry) and learning a lot from it. Anti-Social Media did not dissapoint. It is timely, thoughtful, and compelling as it queries the unintended effects of a culture intertwined with the Internet.

Description:

One of the signal developments in democratic culture around the world in the past half-decade has been the increasing power of social media to both spread information and shape opinions. More and more of our social, political, and religious activities revolve around the Internet. Within this context, Facebook has emerged as one of the most powerful companies in the world.

If you wanted to build a machine that would distribute propaganda to millions of people, distract them from important issues, energize hatred and bigotry, erode social trust, undermine respectable journalism, foster doubts about science, and engage in massive surveillance all at once, you would make something a lot like Facebook. Of course, none of that was part of the plan. In Antisocial Media, Siva Vaidhyanathan explains how Facebook devolved from an innocent social site hacked together by Harvard students into a force that, while it may make personal life just a little more pleasurable, makes democracy a lot more challenging. It’s an account of the hubris of good intentions, a missionary spirit, and an ideology that sees computer code as the universal solvent for all human problems. And it’s an indictment of how “social media” has fostered the deterioration of democratic culture around the world, from facilitating Russian meddling in support of Trump’s election to the exploitation of the platform by murderous authoritarians in Burma and the Philippines. Both authoritative and trenchant, Antisocial Media shows how Facebook’s mission went so wrong.


The Rise of the Meritocracy by Michael Dunlop Young

Contemporary discourse surrounding meritocracy glorifies it as an American ideal. However, the origins of the term are more akin to Jonathan Swift’s modest proposal of eating babies. Young coined the term in his 1958 dystopian satire The Rise of the Meritocracy. From the year 2034, he tracks the history of British education, projecting the triumph of an IQ-based education system and the perils of a meritocracy come to fruition. The philosophical success of meritocracy is a bitter disappointment to Young, who wrote a Guardian article in 2001 titled “Down with Meritocracy.”

This should be required reading for any serious contemporary discussion of merit and its role in higher education.

Description:

Michael Young has christened the oligarchy of the future “Meritocracy.” Indeed, the word is now part of the English language. It would appear that the formula IQ + Effort = Merit may well constitute the basic belief of the ruling class in the twenty-first century. Projecting himself from 1958 into the year 2034, the author of this sociological satire shows how present decisions and practices may remold our society.

It is widespread knowledge that it is insufficient to be somebody’s nephew to obtain a responsible post in business, government, teaching, or science. Experts in education and selection apply scientific principles to sift out the leaders of tomorrow. You need intelligence rating, qualification, experience, application, and a certain caliber to achieve status. In a word, one must show merit to advance in the new society of tomorrow.

 


What to Read this Month: June 2019

Happy Pride Month! In addition to these books, check out our Overdrive, New and Noteworthy, and Current Literature collections. If you’re looking for something good to watch or listen to, explore Lilly’s Devil DVDs and the Music Library’s CD collection.


Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl: A Novel by Andrea Lawlor (they/them).

It’s 1993 and Paul Polydoris tends bar at the only gay club in a university town thrumming with politics and partying. He studies queer theory, has a dyke best friend, makes zines, and is a flâneur with a rich dating life. But Paul’s also got a secret: he’s a shapeshifter. Oscillating wildly from Riot Grrrl to leather cub, Women’s Studies major to trade, Paul transforms his body at will in a series of adventures that take him from Iowa City to Boystown to Provincetown and finally to San Francisco – a journey through the deep queer archives of struggle and pleasure.

Andrea Lawlor’s debut novel offers a speculative history of early ’90s identity politics during the heyday of ACT UP and Queer Nation. Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is a riotous, razor-sharp bildungsroman whose hero/ine wends his way through a world gutted by loss, pulsing with music, and opening into an array of intimacy and connections.

Andrea Lawlor recently appeared on the podcast Against Everyone with Connor Habib, in an episode titled Andrea Lawlor or Queer Non-Binary Sex Revolution Now!


Born Both: An Intersex Life by Hida Viloria (s/he, he/r).

From one of the world’s foremost intersex activists, a candid, provocative, and eye-opening memoir of gender identity, self-acceptance, and love.

My name is Hida Viloria. I was raised as a girl but discovered at a young age that my body looked different. Having endured an often turbulent home life as a kid, there were many times when I felt scared and alone, especially given my attraction to girls. But unlike most people in the first world who are born intersex – meaning they have genitals, reproductive organs, hormones, and/or chromosomal patterns that do not fit standard definitions of male or female – I grew up in the body I was born with because my parents did not have my sex characteristics surgically altered at birth.

It wasn’t until I was twenty-six and encountered the term intersex in a San Francisco newspaper that I finally had a name for my difference. That’s when I began to explore what it means to live in the space between genders – to be both and neither. I tried living as a feminine woman, an androgynous person, and even for a brief period of time as a man. Good friends would not recognize me, and gay men would hit on me. My gender fluidity was exciting, and in many ways freeing – but it could also be isolating.

I had to know if there were other intersex people like me, but when I finally found an intersex community to connect with I was shocked, and then deeply upset, to learn that most of the people I met had been scarred, both physically and psychologically, by infant surgeries and hormone treatments meant to “correct” their bodies. Realizing that the invisibility of intersex people in society facilitated these practices, I made it my mission to bring an end to it – and became one of the first people to voluntarily come out as intersex at a national and then international level.

Born Both is the story of my lifelong journey toward finding love and embracing my authentic identity in a world that insists on categorizing people into either/or, and of my decades-long fight for human rights and equality for intersex people everywhere.

Hida Viloria is a writer, author, and vanguard intersex and non-binary activist. S/he has spoken about intersex human rights at the United Nations and as a frequent television and radio guest (Oprah, Aljazeera, 20/20, NPR, BBC…), consultant (Lambda Legal, UN, Williams Institute…) and op-ed contributor (NewNowNext, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, The Advocate, Ms., CNN.com…).


¡Cuéntamelo! : Oral Histories by LGBT Latino immigrants by Juliana Delgado Lopera (she/her), illustrated by Laura Cerón Melo, edited by Shadia Savo and Santiago Acosta.

¡Cuéntamelo! began as a cover story for SF Weekly. It is “[a] stunning collection of bilingual oral histories and illustrations by LGBT Latinx immigrants who arrived in the U.S. during the 80s and 90s. Stories of repression in underground Havana in the 60s; coming out trans in Catholic Puerto Rico in the 80s; Scarface, female impersonators, Miami and the ‘boat people’; San Francisco’s underground Latinx scene during the 90s and more.”

Juliana Delgado Lopera is an award-winning Colombian writer, historian, speaker and storyteller based in San Francisco. She’s the creative director of RADAR Productions, a queer literary non-profit in San Francisco. Her debut novel Fiebre Tropical, which won the 2014 Jackson Literary Award, will be out Spring 2020 from The Feminist Press.


Lives of Great Men: Living and Loving as an African Gay Man: A Memoir by Chiké Frankie Edozien (he/him).

From Victoria Island, Lagos to Brooklyn, U.S.A. to Accra, Ghana to Paris, France; from across the Diaspora to the heart of the African continent, in this memoir Nigerian journalist Chiké Frankie Edozien offers a highly personal series of contemporary snapshots of same gender loving Africans, unsung Great Men living their lives, triumphing and finding joy in the face of great adversity. On his travels and sojourns Edozien explores the worsening legal climate for gay men and women on the continent; the impact homophobic evangelical American pastors are having in many countries, and its toxic intersection with political populism; and experiences the pressures placed on those living under harshly oppressive laws that are themselves the legacy of colonial rule – pressures that sometimes lead to seeking asylum in the West. Yet he remains hopeful, and this memoir, which is pacy, romantic, and funny by turns, is also a love-letter to Africa, above all to Nigeria and the megalopolis that is Lagos.

Chiké Frankie Edozien is an award-winning reporter whose work has appeared in the New York Times, The Times (UK), Quartz, Vibe magazine, Time Magazine, and more.

He was a New York Post political reporter for over a decade. His work has been featured on numerous new broadcasts. He co-founded The AFRican magazine in 2001 to tell often overlooked, African stories.


Trans Figured: My Journey from Boy to Girl to Woman to Man by Brian Belovitch (he/him).

Imagine experiencing life not as the gender dictated by birth but as one of your own design. In Trans Figured, Brian Belovitch shares his true story of life as a gender outlier and his dramatic journey through the jungle of gender identity.

Brian has the rare distinction of coming out three times: first as a queer teenager; second as a glamorous transgender woman named Tish, and later, Natalia Gervais; and finally as an HIV-positive gay man surviving the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. From growing up in a barely-working-class first-generation immigrant family in Fall River, Massachusetts, to spinning across the disco dance floor of Studio 54 in New York City; from falling into military lock-step as the Army wife of a domineering GI in Germany to having a brush with fame as Natalia, high-flying downtown darling of the boozy and druggy pre-Giuliani New York nightclub scene, Brian escaped many near-death experiences.

Trans Figured chronicles a life lived on the edge with an unforgettable cast of characters during a dangerous and chaotic era. Rich with drama and excitement, this no-holds-barred memoir tells it all. Most importantly, Brian’s candid and poignant story of recovery shines a light on the perseverance of the human spirit.

In 2016, Brian created Queer Stages an LGBTQ playreading group whose mission is to preserve and present LGBTQ themed plays and playwrights for current and future generations. Recently he was Alice, First Lady of Earth in Charles Ludlam’s Conquest of the Universe or When Queens Collide at LaMama to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Ridiculous Theatre. In film and television, Brian has appeared in The Irishman, Nor’easter, Silent Prey, Q&A, The Deuce, Homeland, and The Americans.

 


What to Read this Month: May 2019

We’re kicking off May with a short list of magical reads to celebrate the start of summer.
For more exciting reads, check out our Overdrive, New and Noteworthy, and Current Literature collections.


Enchantée by Gita Trelease.

A compellingly beautiful tale of magic, intrigue and deception, set against the backdrop of eighteenth-century Paris on the cusp of revolution.

Paris is a labyrinth of twisted streets filled with beggars and thieves, revolutionaries and magicians. Camille Durbonne is one of them. She wishes she weren’t…

When smallpox kills her parents, Camille must find a way to provide for her younger sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on magic, Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille pursues a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Using dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into a baroness and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for magic. As she struggles to reconcile her resentment of the rich with the allure of glamour and excess, Camille meets a handsome young inventor, and begins to believe that love and liberty may both be possible.

But magic has its costs, and soon Camille loses control of her secrets. And when revolution erupts, Camille must choose – love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, reality or magic – before Paris burns.

For similar books, check out Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves, Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson, and Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian.


City of Crows by Chris Womersley.

Set in seventeenth-century France – a country in the thrall of dark magic, its social fabric weakened by years of plague – Chris Womersley’s City of Crows is a richly imagined and engrossing tour de force. Inspired by real-life events, it tells the story of Charlotte Picot, a young woman from the country forced to venture to the fearsome city of Paris in search of her only remaining son, Nicolas. Fate (or coincidence) places the quick-witted charlatan Adam Lesage in her path. Lesage is newly released from the prison galleys and on the hunt for treasure, but, believing him to be a spirit she has summoned from the underworld, Charlotte enlists his help in finding her child.

Charlotte and Lesage – comically ill-matched but nevertheless essential to one another – journey to Paris, then known as the City of Crows: Charlotte in search of Nicolas, and Lesage seeking a fresh start.

Dazzlingly told, with humor and flair, City of Crows is a novel for readers who like their fiction atmospheric, adventurous, spine-tingling, and beautifully written. Pre-revolutionary France, with all its ribaldry, superstition, and intrigue is mesmerizing, and Charlotte Picot’s story – the story of a mother in search of her lost son – holds universal appeal.

Chris Womersley has also written The Low Road, Bereft, and Cairo. A collection of his short stories, A Lovely and Terrible Thing will be released in Australia this month.


Half-Witch by John Schoffstall.

In the world in which Lizbet Lenz lives, the sun still goes around the earth, God speaks directly to his worshippers, goblins haunt every cellar, and witches lurk in the forests. Disaster strikes when Lizbet’s father Gerhard, a charming scoundrel, is thrown into a dungeon by the tyrant Hengest Wolftrow. To free him, Lizbet must cross the Montagnes du Monde, globe-girdling mountains that reach to the sky, a journey no one has ever survived, and retrieve a mysterious book.Lizbet is desperate, and the only one who can help her is the unpleasant and sarcastic witch girl Strix. As the two girls journey through the mountains and into the lands of wonder beyond, on the run from goblins, powerful witches, and human criminals, Lizbet discovers, to her horror, that Strix’s magic is turning Lizbet into a witch, too. Meanwhile, a revolution in Heaven is brewing.

Half-Witch was named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2018. Check out NPR’s Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction and Young Adult lists.


Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett.

In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself – the first in a dazzling new series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett.

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic – the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience – have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving–and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way–Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

One of my favorite authors, Tamora Pierce, remarks that Foundryside has “Complex characters, magic that is tech and vice versa, a world bound by warring trade dynasties: Bennett will leave you in awe once you remember to breathe!”


The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang.

Fallen prophet, master of the elements, and daughter of the supreme Protector, Sanao Mokoya has abandoned the life that once bound her. Once her visions shaped the lives of citizens across the land, but no matter what tragedy Mokoya foresaw, she could never reshape the future. Broken by the loss of her young daughter, she now hunts deadly, sky-obscuring naga in the harsh outer reaches of the kingdom with packs of dinosaurs at her side, far from everything she used to love.

On the trail of a massive naga that threatens the rebellious mining city of Bataanar, Mokoya meets the mysterious and alluring Rider. But all is not as it seems: the beast they both hunt harbors a secret that could ignite war throughout the Protectorate. As she is drawn into a conspiracy of magic and betrayal, Mokoya must come to terms with her extraordinary and dangerous gifts, or risk losing the little she has left to hold dear.

The Red Threads of Fortune is one of a pair of standalone introductions to JY Yang’s Tensorate Series, which Kate Elliott calls “effortlessly fascinating.” We have its twin novella, The Black Tides of Heaven.

 


What to Read this Month: April 2019

April is Arab American Heritage Month and National Poetry Month, so this month’s books are all Arab-American fiction, bilingual poetry, or poetry influenced by the Middle East. For more exciting reads, check out our Overdrive, New and Noteworthy, and Current Literature collections.


Dinarzad’s Children: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Fiction edited by Pauline Kaldas and Khaled Mattawa.

The first edition of Dinarzad’s Children was a groundbreaking and popular anthology that brought to light the growing body of short fiction being written by Arab Americans. This expanded edition includes sixteen new stories – thirty in all – and new voices and is now organized into sections that invite readers to enter the stories from a variety of directions. Here are stories that reveal the initial adjustments of immigrants, the challenges of forming relationships, the political nuances of being Arab American, the vision directed towards homeland, and the ongoing search for balance and identity.

The contributors are D. H. Melhem, Mohja Khaf, Rabih Alameddine, Rawi Hage, Laila Halaby, Patricia Sarrafian Ward, Alia Yunis, Diana Abu Jaber, Susan Muaddi Darraj, Samia Serageldin, Alia Yunis, Joseph Geha, May Monsoor Munn, Frances Khirallah Nobel, Nabeel Abraham, Yussef El Guindi, Hedy Habra, Randa Jarrar, Zahie El Kouri, Amal Masri, Sahar Mustafah, Evelyn Shakir, David Williams, Pauline Kaldas, and Khaled Mattawa.


The Situe Stories by Frances Khirallah Noble.

The situe, or Arabic grandmother, moves in and out of this collection of stories as they seek to capture the integration of Christian Arab women into American culture. The tales contain elements of magic and stoicism, presenting characters rich in independence and creativity.

Frances Khirallah Noble also wrote The New Belly Dancer of the Galaxy: A Novel about a middle-aged Syrian American optician who experiences a series of misadventures involving myth, magical realism, and the realities of Arab American life in a post-9/11 world.


Talking Through the Door: An Anthology of Contemporary Middle Eastern American Writing edited by Susan Atefat-Peckham with a foreword by Lisa Suhair Majaj.

The writers included here are descendants of multiple cultural heritages and reflect the perspectives of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds: Egyptian, Iranian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, Libyan, Palestinian, Syrian. They are from diverse socioeconomic classes and spiritual sensibilities: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and atheist, among others. Yet they coexist in this volume as simply American voices.

Atefat-Peckham gathered poetry and prose from sixteen accomplished writers whose works concern a variety of themes: from the familial cross-cultural misunderstandings and conflicts in the works of Iranian American writers Nahid Rachlin and Roger Sedarat to the mysticism of Khaled Mattawa’s poems; from the superstitions that govern characters in Diana Abu-Jaber’s prose to the devastating homesickness in Pauline Kaldas’ characters. Filled with emotion and keen observations, this collection showcases these writers’ vital contributions to contemporary American literature.


The World is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East edited by Diane Glancy and Linda Rodriguez.

This anthology explores how the Middle East has captured the imaginations of a significant group of Native American poets, most of whom have traveled to the Middle East (broadly defined to include the Arab world, Israel, Turkey, Afghanistan). What qualities of the region drew them there? What did they see? How did their cultural perspectives as Native Americans inform their reactions and insights? Three thematic sections – Place, People, Spirit – feature poems and notes inspired by the poets’ experiences of Middle Eastern cultures.

Contributors include Jim Barnes, Kimberly Blaeser, Trevino L. Brings Plenty, Natalie Diaz, Diane Glancy, Joy Harjo, Allison Hedge Coke, Travis Hedge Coke, Linda Hogan, LeAnne Howe, Bojan Louis, Craig Santos Perez, Linda Rodriguez, Kim Shuck, and James Thomas Stevens.


Armenian-American Poets: A Bilingual Anthology compiled and translated by Garig Basmadjian.

A beautiful anthology of poetry written in English by Armenian-American poets, along with their translations into Armenian by author Garig Basmadjian.

This book was published by the Armenian General Benevolent Union, which was founded in 1906 and is dedicated to upholding Armenian heritage worldwide.


Beautiful Words: Kasuundze’ Kenaege’ by John Elvis Smelcer.

A literary landmark, this bilingual collection of poems represents the only literature of the Ahtna culture in existence. Ahtna is one of twenty indigenous languages of Alaska and had no written form until the last thirty years. Here John Smelcer renders these poems in his native tongue with English translations.

To learn more about the Ahtna culture, visit the Ahtna Heritage Foundation’s website.


Arabic Poems: A Bilingual Edition edited by Marlé Hammond.

Arabic poetry is as vast as it is deep, encompassing all manner of poetic expression from Morocco to Iraq and spanning more than fifteen centuries. In its early stages it formed part of an oral tradition, and there were systematic and collective efforts to transmit it to later generations. Poetry not only entertained and delighted, it also served to memorialize individuals, communities, and events. Even today, it has pride of place in the public domain, engaging the elites and the masses in equal measure, albeit in different registers. This anthology attempts to capture the breadth and depth of the Arabic poetic legacy through its inclusion of pieces composed from pre-Islamic times through to the twenty-first century.

Check out our catalog for other translated collections of Arabic poetry.

 


What to Read this Month: March 2019

This month’s selections are books by and about some amazing women in honor of Women’s History Month. For more exciting reads, check out our Overdrive, New and Noteworthy, and Current Literature collections.

Bonus recommendation: Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler, also available as an audiobook on Overdrive.


The Wind In My Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran by Masih Alinejad with Kambiz Foroohar.

An extraordinary memoir from an Iranian journalist in exile about leaving her country, challenging tradition, and sparking an online movement against compulsory hijab.

A photo on Masih’s Facebook page: a woman standing proudly, face bare, hair blowing in the wind. Her crime: removing her veil, or hijab, which is compulsory for women in Iran. This is the self-portrait that sparked ‘My Stealthy Freedom,’ a social media campaign that went viral.

But Masih is so much more than the arresting face that sparked a campaign inspiring women to find their voices. She’s also a world-class journalist whose personal story, told in her unforgettably bold and spirited voice, is emotional and inspiring. She grew up in a traditional village where her mother, a tailor and respected figure in the community, was the exception to the rule in a culture where women reside in their husbands’ shadows. As a teenager, Masih was arrested for political activism and was surprised to discover she was pregnant while in police custody. When she was released, she married quickly and followed her young husband to Tehran where she was later served divorce papers to the shame and embarrassment of her religiously conservative family. Masih spent nine years struggling to regain custody of her beloved only son and was forced into exile, leaving her homeland and her heritage. Following Donald Trump’s notorious immigration ban, Masih found herself separated from her child, who lives abroad, once again.

A testament to a spirit that remains unbroken, and an enlightening, intimate invitation into a world we don’t know nearly enough about, The Wind In My Hair is the extraordinary memoir of a woman who overcame enormous adversity to fight for what she believes in, and to encourage others to do the same.

You can watch Masih Alinejad explain My Stealthy Freedom at the 2016 Women in the World Summit in New York City. To follow My Stealthy Freedom in action, see their Facebook and Twitter.


Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America by Catherine Kerrison.

The remarkable untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s three daughters – two white and free, one black and enslaved – and the divergent paths they forged in a newly independent America.

Thomas Jefferson had three daughters: Martha and Maria by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, and Harriet by his slave Sally Hemings. In Jefferson’s Daughters, Catherine Kerrison, a scholar of early American and women’s history, recounts the remarkable journey of these three women – and how their struggle to define themselves reflects both the possibilities and the limitations that resulted from the American Revolution.

Although the three women shared a father, the similarities end there. Martha and Maria received a fine convent school education while they lived with their father during his diplomatic posting in Paris – a hothouse of intellectual ferment whose celebrated salonnières are vividly brought to life in Kerrison’s narrative. Once they returned home, however, the sisters found their options limited by the laws and customs of early America.

Harriet Hemings followed a different path. She escaped slavery – apparently with the assistance of Jefferson himself. Leaving Monticello behind, she boarded a coach and set off for a decidedly uncertain future.

For this groundbreaking triple biography, Kerrison has uncovered never-before-published documents written by the Jefferson sisters when they were in their teens, as well as letters written by members of the Jefferson and Hemings families. She has interviewed Hemings family descendants (and, with their cooperation, initiated DNA testing) and searched for descendants of Harriet Hemings.

The eventful lives of Thomas Jefferson’s daughters provide a unique vantage point from which to examine the complicated patrimony of the American Revolution itself. The richly interwoven story of these three strong women and their fight to shape their own destinies sheds new light on the ongoing movement toward human rights in America – and on the personal and political legacy of one of our most controversial Founding Fathers.

Catherine Kerrison discussed Jefferson’s Daughters in a Conversations at the Washington Library podcast. also wrote Claiming the Pen: Women and Intellectual Life in the Early American South.


Song In a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage by Pauli Murray, with a new introduction by Patricia Bell-Scott.

First published posthumously in 1987, Pauli Murray’s Song in a Weary Throat was critically lauded, winning the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and the Lillian Smith Book Award among other distinctions. Yet Murray’s name and extraordinary influence receded from view in the intervening years; now they are once again entering the public discourse. At last, with the republication of this “beautifully crafted” memoir, Song in a Weary Throat takes its rightful place among the great civil rights autobiographies of the twentieth century.

In a voice that is energetic, wry, and direct, Murray tells of a childhood dramatically altered by the sudden loss of her spirited, hard-working parents. Orphaned at age four, she was sent from Baltimore to segregated Durham, North Carolina, to live with her unflappable Aunt Pauline, who, while strict, was liberal-minded in accepting the tomboy Pauli as “my little boy-girl.” In fact, throughout her life, Murray would struggle with feelings of sexual “in-betweenness” – she tried unsuccessfully to get her doctors to give her testosterone – that today we would recognize as a transgendered identity.

We then follow Murray north at the age of seventeen to New York City’s Hunter College, to her embrace of Gandhi’s Satyagraha – nonviolent resistance – and south again, where she experienced Jim Crow firsthand. An early Freedom Rider, she was arrested in 1940, fifteen years before Rosa Parks’ disobedience, for sitting in the whites-only section of a Virginia bus. Murray’s activism led to relationships with Thurgood Marshall and Eleanor Roosevelt – who respectfully referred to Murray as a “firebrand” – and propelled her to a Howard University law degree and a lifelong fight against “Jane Crow” sexism. We also read Betty Friedan’s enthusiastic response to Murray’s call for an NAACP for Women – the origins of NOW. Murray sets these thrilling high-water marks against the backdrop of uncertain finances, chronic fatigue, and tragic losses both private and public, as Patricia Bell-Scott’s engaging introduction brings to life.

Now, more than thirty years after her death in 1985, Murray – poet, memoirist, lawyer, activist, and Episcopal priest – gains long-deserved recognition through a rediscovered memoir that serves as a “powerful witness” (Brittney Cooper) to a pivotal era in the American twentieth century.

Pauli Murray is featured in multiple murals in Durham. To learn more about Pauli Murray and community projects commemorating her, check out the Pauli Murray Project.


Gertrude Weil: Jewish Progressive in the New South by Leonard Rogoff.

It is so obvious that to treat people equally is the right thing to do,” wrote Gertrude Weil (1879-1971). In the first-ever biography of Weil, Leonard Rogoff tells the story of a modest southern Jewish woman who, while famously private, fought publicly and passionately for the progressive causes of her age. Born to a prominent family in Goldsboro, North Carolina, Weil never married and there remained ensconced – in many ways a proper southern lady – for nearly a century. From her hometown, she fought for women’s suffrage, founded her state’s League of Women Voters, pushed for labor reform and social welfare, and advocated for world peace.

Weil made national headlines during an election in 1922 when, casting her vote, she spotted and ripped up a stack of illegally marked ballots. She campaigned against lynching, convened a biracial council in her home, and in her eighties desegregated a swimming pool by diving in headfirst. Rogoff also highlights Weil’s place in the broader Jewish American experience. Whether attempting to promote the causes of southern Jewry, save her European family members from the Holocaust, or support the creation of a Jewish state, Weil fought for systemic change, all the while insisting that she had not done much beyond the ordinary duty of any citizen.

A decade before Rogoff’s book, Anne Firor Scott wrote an article about Gertrude Weil. She relates a conversation about international problems where Gertrude exclaimed, “I grow more radical every year. Who knows? I may live long enough to become a communist!”

Gertrude Weil is featured in the Women of Valor exhibit in the Jewish Women’s Archive. She also has a highway marker in Goldsboro.


Always Another Country: A Memoir of Exile and Home by Sisonke Msimang.

Born in exile, in Zambia, to a guerrilla father and a working mother, Sisonke Msimang is constantly on the move. Her parents, talented and highly educated, travel from Zambia to Kenya and Canada and beyond with their young family. Always the outsider, and against a backdrop of racism and xenophobia, Sisonke develops her keenly perceptive view of the world. In this sparkling account of a young girl’s path to womanhood, Sisonke interweaves her personal story with her political awakening in America and Africa, her euphoria at returning to the new South Africa, and her disillusionment with the new elites. Confidential and reflective, Always Another Country is a search for belonging and identity: a warm and intimate story that will move many readers.

Sisonke Msimang gave a TEDTalk in 2017 titled If a Story Moves You, Act on It. She recently published The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela, which she discusses here.

 


What to Read this Month: February 2019

February is Black History Month, so before I get to the books, here are some exhibits, resources, and events:

Duke People’s State of the University is a campus activist group that has successfully pressured Duke to “ban the box” – not require job applicants to disclose criminal history – and rename the Carr building. The Chronicle named PSOTU one of its Chron15 Pioneers.

Duke is home to the personal and professional papers of John Hope Franklin, historian, activist, and public scholar. The John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, housed at the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library collects and preserves primary sources. The John Hope Franklin Center of International and Interdisciplinary Studies produces a weekly webcast called Left of Black, hosted by Duke Professor Mark Anthony Neal. The Franklin Humanities Institute hosts the lab From Slavery to Freedom: Representations of Race and Freedom in the African Diaspora.

February 13 marked the 50th anniversary of the Allen Building Takeover at Duke. The Takeover is commemorated by an online exhibit and a physical exhibit on display through July 14 in the Jerry and Bruce Chappell Family Gallery in Perkins. Duke Digital Collections include Silent Vigil (1968) and Allen Building Takeover (1969) Audio Recordings. In addition to the  Allen Building Takeover recordings, Duke has digitized the oral history collection Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South. Members of the Duke community now also have access to a database of oral history interviews of African Americans: The HistoryMakers Digital Archive.

NC Central University has two remaining events in their Black History Month Activities: a lecture from The Universal Ethiopian Students’ Association, 1927-1948: Mobilizing Diaspora by Dr. Takeia Anthony and the musical drama A Need Fulfilled, profiling the lives of black nurses in World War II.

For more exciting reads, check out our New and Noteworthy and Current Literature collections.


Unseen: Unpublished Black History From The New York Times Photo Archives by Darcy Eveleigh, Dana Canedy, Damien Cave, and Rachel L. Swarns.

Hundreds of stunning images from black history have long been buried in the New York Times archives. Unseen dives deep into the Times photo archives – known as the Morgue – to showcase this extraordinary collection of photographs and the stories behind them.

It all started with Times photo editor Darcy Eveleigh discovering dozens of these photographs. She and three colleagues – Dana Canedy, Damien Cave and Rachel L. Swarns – began exploring the history behind them, subsequently chronicling them in a series entitled “Unpublished Black History” that ran in print and online editions of the Times in February 2016. It garnered 1.7 million views on the Times website and thousands of comments from readers. This book includes those photographs and many more, among them: a 27-year-old Jesse Jackson leading an anti-discrimination rally in Chicago, Rosa Parks arriving at a Montgomery Courthouse in Alabama, a candid behind-the-scenes shot of Aretha Franklin backstage at the Apollo Theater, Ralph Ellison on the streets of his Manhattan neighborhood, the firebombed home of Malcolm X, Myrlie Evans and her children at the funeral of her slain husband , Medgar, and a wheelchair-bound Roy Campanella at the razing of Ebbets Field.

Were the photos – or the people in them – not deemed newsworthy enough? Did the images not arrive in time for publication? Were they pushed aside by words at an institution long known as the Gray Lady? Eveleigh, Canedy, Cave, and Swarns explore all these questions and more in this one-of-a-kind book.

My favorite photograph from this book is at the beginning of the section “Arthur Mitchell, Dancing Through Barriers” on page 96. Unfortunately, this image does not appear in the online photograph series.


Talking Back: Voices of Color edited and with an introduction by Nellie Wong.

Talking Back: Voices of Color is a dynamic anthology featuring voices of youth, political prisoners, immigrants, and history-makers. Essays by a multi-racial, intergenerational mix of 25 Black, Latinx, Native American, and LGBTQ community organizers. Topics include quality education and environmental justice, indigenous land rights and international solidarity, film and book reviews, hidden histories of women of color, and tales of endurance and survival.

The introduction by Nellie Wong, a celebrated and widely published poet, explores the meaning of talking back as a step in gaining self-esteem and as a collective act. She writes: “To whom do we talk back? To those who will silence us. Those who incarcerate us in prison or in the home. Those who deny us our rights to cross borders to seek refuge from violence and safety for our children. Those who brutalize us because of our race, gender or sexuality… These voices of color matter. They need to be heard. Everywhere.”

This vibrant anthology astonished me at every turn. Many of the events referenced are history that I was never taught, stories that never penetrated the mainstream media, and news that never struck me as important on a visceral level amid the flood of a 24/7 news cycle and the filter effect of social media. Talking Back: Voices of Color opened my eyes to lived realities. I highly recommend this book, but reading it requires open-mindedness and a willingness to listen rather than reflexively judge based on the organizers’ politics.


Showtime at the Apollo: The Epic Tale of Harlem’s Legendary Theater by Ted Fox, illustrated by James Otis Smith.

Writer Ted Fox and artist James Otis Smith bring to life Harlem’s legendary theater in this graphic novel adaptation of Fox’s definitive, critically acclaimed history of the Apollo.

Since its inception as an African-American theater in 1934, the Apollo, and the thousands of entertainers who performed there, have led the way in the presentation of swing, bebop, rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel, soul, funk and hip-hop – along with the latest in dance and comedy. The Apollo has nurtured and featured thousands of artists, many of whom have become legends. The beauty they have given the world – their art – transcends the hatred, ignorance, and intolerance that often made their lives difficult. Today, the Apollo enjoys an almost mythical status. With its breathtaking art, this graphic novel adaptation of Showtime at the Apollo brings to life the theater’s legendary significance in music history, African American history, and the culture of New York City.

Multiversity Comics interviewed Ted Fox and James Otis Smith at New York Comic Con 2018. In addition to the new graphic novel, we have the 1983 book it was adapted from.


Afro-Descendants, Identity, and the Struggle for Development in the Americas edited by Bernd Reiter and Kimberly Eison Simmons.

Indigenous people and African descendants in Latin America and the Caribbean have long been affected by a social hierarchy established by elites, through which some groups were racialized and others were normalized. Far from being “racial paradises” populated by an amalgamated “cosmic race” of mulattos and mestizos, Latin America and the Caribbean have long been sites of shifting exploitative strategies and ideologies, ranging from scientific racism and eugenics to the more sophisticated official denial of racism and ethnic difference. This book, among the first to focus on African descendants in the region, brings together diverse reflections from scholars, activists, and funding agency representatives working to end racism and promote human rights in the Americas. By focusing on the ways racism inhibits agency among African descendants and the ways African-descendant groups position themselves in order to overcome obstacles, this interdisciplinary book provides a multi-faceted analysis of one of the gravest contemporary problems in the Americas.

Bernd Reiter has also written The Dialectics of Citizenship: Exploring Privilege, Exclusion, and Racialization and The Crisis of Liberal Democracy and the Path Ahead. Kimberly Eison Simmons contributed to Black Feminist Anthropology: Theory, Politics, Praxis, and Poetics and wrote Reconstructing Racial Identity and the African Past in the Dominican Republic.


Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly.

Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe is a funny and poignant neighborhood story about unexpected friendships.

In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so he can concentrate on basketball.

They aren’t friends, at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms.

The acclaimed and award-winning author of Blackbird Fly and The Land of Forgotten Girls writes with an authentic, humorous, and irresistible tween voice that will appeal to fans of Thanhha Lai and Rita Williams-Garcia.

I saw this book while browsing the New and Noteworthy collection. It looked adorable and positive, and did not disappoint. Hello Universe is so cute and wholesome that I was tearing up at the end because everything turns out well and friendship is amazing.

 


What to Read this Month: January 2019

Welcome back! The best way to celebrate the start of 2019 is with some new books. Check out our New and Noteworthy and Current Literature collections for some good titles.


“All the Real Indians Died Off”: and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker unpacks the twenty-one most common myths and misconceptions about Native Americans. In this enlightening book, scholars and activists Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker tackle a wide range of myths about Native American culture and history that have misinformed generations. Tracing how these ideas evolved, and drawing from history, the authors disrupt long-held and enduring myths such as-“Columbus Discovered America,” “Thanksgiving Proves the Indians Welcomed Pilgrims,” “Indians Were Savage and Warlike,” “Europeans Brought Civilization to Backward Indians,” “The United States Did Not Have a Policy of Genocide,” “Sports Mascots Honor Native Americans,” “Most Indians Are on Government Welfare,” “Indian Casinos Make Them All Rich,” and “Indians Are Naturally Predisposed to Alcohol.” Each chapter deftly shows how these myths are rooted in the fears and prejudice of European settlers and in the larger political agendas of a settler state aimed at acquiring Indigenous land and tied to narratives of erasure and disappearance. Accessibly written and revelatory, All the Real Indians Died Off challenges readers to rethink what they have been taught about Native Americans and history.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz also wrote An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Dina Gilio-Whitaker is a policy director and senior researcher at the Center for World Indigenous Studies.

According to Shandiin Herrera, who wrote a moving piece on the Native American experience at Duke in the Chronicle, “I think that this book selection is very important because there are too many stereotypes that continue to be perpetuated, especially in academia. These myths continue to harm Indigenous students, tribal policies, and Native Nations across the country. There is also a substantial amount of power in gaining a new understanding of history and the construction of our society.”


A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett contains eleven unique short stories that stretch from a rural Canadian Mennonite town to a hipster gay bar in Brooklyn, featuring young trans women stumbling through loss, sex, harassment, and love. These stories, shiny with whiskey and prairie sunsets, rattling subways and neglected cats, show growing up as a trans girl can be charming, funny, frustrating, or sad, but never will it be predictable.

In addition to Perkins, you can find A Safe Girl to Love as a free PDF on the author’s website Progress Never Stops For Nostalgic Transsexuals.


The Kukotsky Enigma: A Novel by Ludmila Ulitskaya, translated from the Russian by Diane Nemec Ignashev. The central character in Ludmila Ulitskaya’s celebrated novel The Kukotsky Enigma is a gynecologist contending with Stalin’s prohibition of abortions in 1936. But, in the tradition of Russia’s great family novels, the story encompasses the history of two families and unfolds in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the ruins of ancient civilizations on the Black Sea. Their lives raise profound questions about family heritage and genetics, nurture and nature, and life and death. In his struggle to maintain his professional integrity and to keep his work from dividing his family, Kukotsky confronts the moral complexity of reproductive science. Winner of the 2001 Russian Booker Prize and the basis for a blockbuster television miniseries, The Kukotsky Enigma is an engrossing, searching novel by one of contemporary literature’s most brilliant writers.

If you’re interested, we also have the original Russian novel.


You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar. Growing up as a fat girl, Virgie Tovar believed that her body was something to be fixed. But after two decades of dieting and constant guilt, she was over it–and gave herself the freedom to trust her own body again. Ever since, she’s been helping others to do the same. Tovar is hungry for a world where bodies are valued equally, food is free from moral judgment, and you can jiggle through life with respect. In concise and candid language, she delves into unlearning fatphobia, dismantling sexist notions of fashion, and how to reject diet culture’s greatest lie: that fat people need to wait before beginning their best lives.

Check out her TEDx Talk and website.


Odd Girl Out: My Extraordinary Autistic Life by Laura James. From childhood, Laura James knew she was different. She struggled to cope in a world that often made no sense to her, as though her brain had its own operating system. It wasn’t until she reached her forties that she found out why: suddenly and surprisingly, she was diagnosed with autism.

With a touching and searing honesty, Laura challenges everything we think we know about what it means to be autistic. Married with four children and a successful journalist, Laura examines the ways in which autism has shaped her career, her approach to motherhood, and her closest relationships. Laura’s upbeat, witty writing offers new insight into the day-to-day struggles of living with autism, as her extreme attention to sensory detail–a common aspect of her autism–is fascinating to observe through her eyes.

As Laura grapples with defining her own identity, she also looks at the unique benefits neurodiversity can bring. Lyrical and lush, Odd Girl Out shows how being different doesn’t mean being less, and proves that it is never too late for any of us to find our rightful place in the world.

Amelia Hill of the Guardian interviewed Laura James about being a mother with autism.